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Day 5 Recap – 2016 Bahamas Tour

August 6, 2016

Our final day in the Bahamas is quickly coming to a close as 5:30 a.m. Sunday will be here sooner than any of us wants it to.

Today was an incredible team bonding experience as we all went on a sailboat excursion to Rose Island. Captain Randy and his crew were extremely friendly and professional towards us. I would highly recommend them to any large group traveling to the Bahamas (I would also recommend sunscreen … and then more sunscreen). When we got to the island, the majority of the boat snorkeled around the coral or just lounged around on floaties in the water.

As I reflect on our trip as a whole, two things I experienced here will shape my life going forward. First of all, it was really good for us players to see how our coaches (AD and support staff included) interact with their families. Sure we see these men on a daily basis, but to see them in different capacities like husband, fiancé, and father is not something we are completely used to. Our coaching staff already goes over and beyond in shaping us as men for life after college, and this trip only emphasizes that. Some practical examples I saw today when I just stepped back into the background and observed were: Coach Gipson riding in the little motor boat to shore with Robin so that he wouldn’t be alone while everyone else swam to shore. Coach Lusk sitting on the boat with his kids answering all of their questions about the world around them. Mr. Moats kept up snorkeling with his daughter the entire afternoon. And Brice Cox encouraging (more like questioned his manhood but that’s still okay) Ronnie to dive off of the boat and conquer his fears.

The other experience I had today was just how extremely blessed we are. I mentioned this at the time but we were really sitting on a sailboat in the Bahamas, eating ribs for lunch, on a paid vacation with our entire team. Things like this are not common, and we should not take lightly. A huge thanks goes out to everyone who made this possible. Really you have no idea how incredible this was.

Beyond the 10 practices and three games, we were able to have this summer from a basketball standpoint, this trip accelerated our team’s cohesiveness. Usually it takes new guys a little bit of an adjustment period when they first get to this level both on the court and socially. When usually you don’t really find out what your teammates are like until about November or December. It’s August 6, and our three junior college transfers feel like old buddies of mine already. Just what an awesome experience.

I can’t wait to show BearNation our team for my senior year when we get back. We have a really special group this year. This more than likely ends my career as a blogger, but thank you Rick Kindhart for giving me this opportunity. See y’all in the fall! Go Bears!

Tyler McCullough

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Day 4 Recap – 2016 Bahamas Tour

August 5, 2016

Our fourth day is coming to a close with our narrow victory over the CTG Knights (87-86). This team was full of experienced, older players that were very well coached. Hats off to them for really making us work for it. The FIBA rules are a little funky at times, but we have to persevere through it. I am really proud of how the guys handled themselves late in a close game despite the adversity. I think this will set us up very nicely after a few more months of practice before the season begins.

Today’s game was an hour earlier than usual so our daily activities all got pushed up an hour. We had a group of 10 guys filled with players and some coaches that rode the banana tube pulled behind a boat in the ocean. It’s really interesting and almost fun how we are able to negotiate the price with the workers. Pretty much anytime you come up with a big group, someone’s going to cut you a deal. Growing up on the lake I am very used to jet-skis and tubing, but seeing some of my inexperienced teammates interact with water sports makes my entire trip memorable by itself. One of my teammates who shall remain nameless (6’7″ uber athlete from Illinois), was holding on to the banana tube so hard that he ended up popping the strap off and flying off. On our tube trip the boat driver showed us Michael Jordan’s Bahamas home which was really cool to see.

As a team we have been on the lazy river every single day, and I have personally been a frequent visitor to the pool with my book (CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters) during the team nap time before we leave for the game. Tomorrow we are setting course for a private island where we will be free to snorkel and roam around while receiving the island finest barbecue. As always, Go Bears!

Tyler McCullough

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Day 3 Recap – 2016 Bahamas Tour

August 4, 2016

Today was the third day of our trip and it was very similar to yesterday. However, after breakfast we had the privilege of visiting the Ranfurly Home for Children about 10 minutes away from our hotel. We played basketball with the kids and just had a great time hanging out with them. They have 11 boys and 11 girls that live there until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. Coach Lusk invited them to our game tonight and bought them each their own pizza. After the game we were able to interact with the kids further and take pictures with them.

When we got back to Atlantis from the children’s home this afternoon, the guys all went to either the water park or beach again until our pregame meal. Naps were again the hobby of choice until we left for the game.

Now the game was one of the most entertaining events of my life. Beside the score of 121-55, we really sat down and played really strong defense for four quarters. The team we played was really more talented then the team we played last night, but we just broke their will with our stifling defense. We caused a lot of turnovers which led to a lot of fast breaks and dunks. Jarred and Alize shot the fire out of the ball, Ryan dunked on someone (okay, he at least tried to), Ronnie and DeQuon were all over the place on every play, and Obi is just unfair sometimes. With this new brand of basketball, we should really bring some excitement back to our fan base and have a successful season.

Until tomorrow, Go Bears!

Tyler McCullough

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Day 2 Recap – 2016 Bahamas Tour

August 3, 2016

107-67. Bears win!

A few quick thoughts on our first game: We are athletic, we can shoot, and we play fast. Chris Kendrix was hot and finished with 23 points, and we were solid across the board. The second half, I thought we really attempted to guard them with Dequon setting the tone for us early. We are headed back to the hotel to eat a postgame meal and then off to bed as we are visiting an orphanage tomorrow morning.

Last night after dinner most of the team explored the resort. I’m not quite sure how many different towers there are to stay in at Atlantis, but two of the towers here are 19 stories high with staggering views. Another cool thing within the resort is the aquarium with sting rays and sharks.

Today after breakfast, I went with a group to the water park to ride on the Rapid River and a few of the water slides. We quickly learned that the inner-tubes were not made for basketball sized people, and that made it even more fun when we gained speed and barreled into each other. The other half of the team rented jet-skis on the beach and it looked like a blast. Because we played tonight most of the guys got out of the sun and took naps in preparation by mid afternoon. Being an old man, I went to the pool for a couple hours and read my book before we left for the game. Tomorrow we are playing the Bahamian National Team which should be our toughest opponent down here. Go Bears!

Tyler McCullough

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Day 1 Recap – Bahamas Tour 2016

Aug. 2, 2016

3:45 a.m. marked the beginning of our Bahamas trip as we departed from JQH Arena. I am not sure that the airport was prepared for a group of 33 so early in the morning but we crammed every last person in our party on the flight to Atlanta with minutes to spare. A sleepless flight after a sleepless night prompted me to use every bit of my senior savvy to skip breakfast in favor of begging the Delta ticket counter for exit row seating for me and my closest, tallest friends. Very fortunately the ticket counter granted us some mercy and my efforts paid off for Obi, Zay, Jordan, and I (Sorry DeQuon and Ronnie, y’all were next). 90 minutes of desperation sleep later and I was greeted with gorgeous island views complimented by some of the clearest aqua water in the world. The Customs line at the Nassau Airport was definitely more of a marathon than a sprint but it didn’t matter, we had finally made it to the Bahamas.

It took 3 busses (2 for passengers and 1 for all of the luggage) and 25 minutes to get to the Atlantis Resort. Cody Seidel really was a rock star all day for us making sure a party of 33 (including 12 of the biggest knuckleheads you’ve come across) cleared customs, made flights, got room assignments, received lunch, and still had plenty of freedom to enjoy ourselves. A 4.5 hour block before dinner was entirely free to do whatever we wanted. Most of the guys explored the resort and lounged on the beach and lazy river, while others (hey, old seniors like me need their rest) slept the afternoon away in preparation for our big week. Currently we are eating at Virgil’s Real Barbecue on the premise which offers a never ending flow of entrees and appetizers (great call, Cody). The rest of the night is completely in our hands after dinner, and I will fill y’all in on that tomorrow. Go Bears!

Tyler McCullough

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Aug. 18 — MSU Bears Football Report

SPRINGFIELD – As with most preseason scrimmages, there was both good and bad to be taken from Plaster Field on Saturday morning (Aug. 18) when the Missouri State Bears conducted their second intrasquad football match-up.

During the team’s final workout of fall camp, the offense rolled up 544 yards on 115 official plays, the defense forced four turnovers, but it was the penalties that got the attention of the head coach.

“Last week we ran 121 plays and had 4 penalties,” said Terry Allen. “I think today we had 4 penalties in the first 20 plays and 16 total for the scrimmage. You can’t win football games with that many penalties.”

Highlighting the morning session were junior Mikael Cooper-Falls with three touchdowns, Dorian Buford with 90 receiving yards, and Kierra Harris with 261 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Cooper-Falls scored the first two touchdowns of the day, first on a 24-yard pass from Harris, and later on a one-yard run. Toward the end of the scrimmage, the Springfield native punched one in from five yards out. He finished with an efficient 4 carries for 7 yards on the ground and 31 total yards.

Harris completed his first 5 pass attempts before being intercepted. But the more snaps he got, the more confidence he seemed to get. Harris connected on 9 of his last 12 passes for 106 yards, including a 60-yard strike to Dorian Buford for a touchdown.

Buford, a junior who started three games a year ago, finished with team highs with 7 catches for 90 yards. Newcomer Tre Kelley (66 yards) and tight end Matt Thayer (49 yards) were next with 6 receptions apiece.

Allen said taking the good with the bad is part of the preseason, but learning from mistakes is part of the process of becoming a better football team.

“We had some really good learning experiences out there,” said Allen. “That’s what we strive for.”

Sophomore safeties Mike Crutcher and Caleb Schaffitzel each recorded interceptions, along with junior Howard Scarborough who had two of the defense’s five break-ups. Jonathan Walker also had a 37-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown late in the scrimmage, and there were a pair of blocked kicks.

The Bears will have Sunday off to recover and begin preparing for the fall semester, which begins Monday at MSU. The team will have two weeks to begin preparing for its Sept. 1 season opener at Kansas State, beginning with an afternoon practice Monday at Plaster Field.

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Scrimmage #2 Stats

Aug. 18, 2012

RUSHING (52-113): Ryan Heaston 5-32 (TD), Vernon Scott 6-23, Cedric Miller 6-20, Maddy Johnson 9-15, Kierra Harris 3-12, Josh Mattes 9-11; Mikael Cooper-Falls 4-7 (2TD); Ashton Glaser 2-7, Benny Jones 5-2, Brodie Lambert 1-(-4), Team 2-(-12).

PASSING (63-40-3, 431, 3 TD): Kierra Harris 31-20-1, 261 (2 TD); Ashton Glaser 27-15-2, 149 (1 TD); Brodie Lambert 5-4-0, 20; Alex Lawson 1-1-0, 1.

RECEIVING (40-431): Dorian Buford 7-90 (TD), Tre Kelley 6-66, Matt Thayer 6-49, Cadarrius Dotson 3-38 (TD), Matt Swan 3-23, Ryan Heaston 2-25, Julian Burton 2-14, Staceey Thornton 2-14, Marvell Saffold 2-10, Eric Christophel 1-45, Mikael Cooper-Falls 1-24 (TD) Vernon Scott 1-21, Zac Hoover 1-5, Cedric Miller 1-5, Richard Darden 1-1, Nick Thomas 1-1.

FIELD GOALS (1-5): Austin Witmer 1-4 (long 42), Marcelo Bonani 0-1.

Interceptions (3-40): Howard Scarborough 1-30, Mike Crutcher 1-10, Caleb Schaffitzel 1-0.

Fumble Recoveries (1-37): Jonathan Walker 1-37.

Mikael Cooper-Falls 24-yard pass from Kierra Harris (Marcelo Bonani kick)
Mikael Cooper-Falls 1-yard run (Austin Witmer kick)
Cadarrius Dotson 5-yard pass from Ashton Glaser (Marcelo Bonani kick)
Austin Witmer 42-yard field goal
Ryan Heaston 7-yard run (Marcelo Bonani kick)
Mikael Cooper-Falls 5-yard run (no PAT)
Dorian Buford 60-yard pass from Kierra Harris (no PAT)
Jonathan Walker 37-yard fumble return (no PAT)

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Aug. 17 – MSU Bears Football Report

Coach Bob Montgomery Talks About the Bears Special Teams “K.N.O.T. Heads”

Friday not only marked move-in day on the Missouri State campus, but another landmark for the Bears football squad—the final day of two-a-days. The Bears spent a good deal of time working on two and four-minute situations on both sides of the ball in their two-hour morning practice at Plaster Field heading into their second scrimmage of the fall camp on Saturday.

Special teams were the focus of Friday’s afternoon practice, with the Bears returning a host of experienced performers at a number of key spots. MSU will have no shortage of experienced punt and kick returners this fall, returning six of the eight players who fielded kickoffs last season and three of its four punt returners.

“We probably have six to eight guys back there, big bodies who can run through tackles,” Montgomery said. “We have Julian Burton, Cedric Miller, the freshman from Memphis, some guys that can really go and we’re excited about that.”

Topping the list of return candidates is Julian Burton who had a team-high 10 punt returns (7.3) and notched 17 kick returns (18.8) as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Burton has a career kickoff return average of 21.9, including a 54-yarder as a short-season freshman in 2010.

Vernon Scott had a team-high 18 kickoff returns last season, while Caleb Schaffitzel closed out the 2011 season with 5 kickoff returns late in the year with a 33.6 average and season-high 75 yard effort at Youngstown State. Sybhrian Berry (8.4 punt return average and 16.7 kickoff return average) also figures to be in the mix.

Long-snapping duty will come down to the battle between returning squadman Hunter Hays, who inherited that role this spring from graduated senior Kaleb Mueller, and incoming freshman Colby Wickwar, who has been a pleasant surprise in fall camp, Montgomery says.

Another new face, Chris Sullens, is the summer favorite to be the club’s top punter this season after he averaged 38.0 yards per punt on 11 attempts this spring. Filling the shoes of four-year starter Jordan Chiles won’t be easy, but junior kicker Austin Witmer has been Chiles’ understudy the past two seasons and can step in if necessary.

Witmer averaged 61.9 yards per kickoff last season (43 attempts), was 25-for-26 on extra points and is 11-for-19 in his career in field goal kicking. His role as the club’s top place kicker seems eminent, and his confidence will only boosted this fall with a solid effort in spring drills. Sophomore transfer Marcelo Bonani has also competed well in fall camp, Montgomery added.

No matter who you’re talking about on special teams, it all comes down to consistency, Montgomery says.

“Consistency has kind of been the word of camp for this group. They have the ability and if they can be consistent, we’ll be okay.”

Players not involved in special teams work spent part of Friday afternoon helping other students move in to their residence halls.

The Bears will conduct their second scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at 9:15 a.m., at Plaster Field. The event, which is free and open to the public, was originally scheduled for 10:15 a.m. The scrimmage will mark the Bears’ 20th preseason practice and officially conclude fall camp, which began on Aug. 2.

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Aug. 16 — MSU Bears Football Report

Practice No. 17 on Thursday afternoon was an abbreviated session for the Bears who modified the scheduled workout to accommodate thunderstorms in the Springfield area. The practice lasted just over two hours at Plaster Field and was sandwiched right between a series of showers.

“It was sultry hot when we got out here around three o’clock,” said head coach Terry Allen. “The humidity was pretty intense. We did things in a different order in practice so we could make sure that we got those things in. I think it was good for us.”

Allen noted the change of routine was a healthy break for his troops after two solid weeks of workouts.

“After 17 practices of relatively the same routine, it gets a little old and boring,” Allen explained. “So we changed things up which upped the intensity. We got done a little bit early and beat the storm.”

The Bears plan a long practice on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., followed by a special teams session on Friday afternoon. Most of the players will spend part of Friday afternoon moving into the dormitories or helping other students as they arrive on campus.

Camp officially concludes on Saturday morning with the team’s second fall scrimmage. Allen said the Saturday session may be moved up to 9:15 a.m., pending confirmation from the game officials.

One of the key ingredients to the Bears’ success this season will be the team’s running game where MSU returns just 12 percent of its rushing yards from 2011. Two-year letterman Vernon Scott (Muskogee, Okla.), a junior, leads the list of returnees after he carried 42 times for 167 yards a year ago. The only other letterman in the backfield is Mikael Cooper-Falls who missed all of 2010 and 2011 with a pair of knee injuries. The Springfield native led the club in rushing as a true freshman in 2009 with 424 yards on 92 carries.

Also returning are redshirt freshmen Ryan Heaston (Cordova, Tenn.) and Maddy Johnson (Webb City, Mo.) along with spring addition Benny Jones (So., St. Louis, Mo.) and converted defensive specialist Josh Mattes (So., Eldridge, Mo.).

Joining the cast is Memphis native Cedric Miller, a true freshman who assistant coach Gerald Davis says is in the mix for playing time after he led the squad in the first fall scrimmage with 51 yards on 9 carries with a touchdown.

“Right now it’s an open position,” the Bears’ running back coach explained. “Vernon (Scott) has the most experience, and it’s his time to shine. But guys like Ryan Heaston, Cedric Miller, Mikael Cooper-Falls, Maddy Johnson and Josh Mattes are all pushing him, so he can’t take a day off.”

Davis also noted that the pass blocking ability of his group has impressed him the most so far this spring.

“We’re making strides every day,” said Davis. “The young guys are coming along. They’re all picking up the offense. They’re sticking together and pushing each other every day.”

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Aug. 15 – MSU Bears Football Report

Coach Courtney Sanders Talks About the Bears’ Defensive Line

As the calendar hit the midway point in August, the Missouri State Bears continued their march toward their Sept. 1 season opener with Kansas State with a pair of workouts Wednesday. The Bears focused on situationals and individual position work with a 90-minute morning practice, before finishing up on the grass practice fields late in the afternoon.

“These are grind-it-out days,” head coach Terry Allen commented. “They are more mental than physical. We’re going to be out here for two practices today. It’s a good time to see which guys are mentally tough.”

It’s important to take advantage of the hours we have with them this week – not only on the field but in the meeting rooms. We have to teach an awful lot on special situations, so we try to take advantage of all the extra meeting time we have this time of year.”

One area in which the Bears should feel comfortable in terms of being ahead of the learning curve is on the defensive line. This year’s d-line will feature three players who started at least seven games last season, combining for seven years of experience at the collegiate level. MSU will also have additional depth on the d-line, giving position coach Courtney Sanders reason to be optimistic.

“We have guys who can play — who can run and make plays,” said Sanders. “It’s hard to replace a guy like (fifth-year senior) Mikel Ruder, but I like the talent we have this year, and I think finding a leader and playing as a unit will be the key to our success.”

Ruder brought down 48 ball carriers in 2011 and started all 11 games en route to earning All-MVFC second-team distinction.  But returnees Tevan Ferguson, Martin Montgomery and Eric Pearce combined for 22 starts and 97 total tackles a year ago while maturing significantly in the process.

“Those three guys had great springs,” Sanders said. “We will count on them to lead us. With the depth we should have, we just need to work as a unit and stay healthy.”

The Bears will get the services of defensive ends Anthony Grady and Corey Feagin back after they missed all of 2011 with injuries. Juco transfers Spencer Emerson, who arrived this spring, and C.J. Randall will also add depth and push for significant playing time along with redshirt freshman James Barnes who emerged from the spring as a serious contender for defensive reps.

“The surprise of the spring was James Barnes, and if Corey Feagin can stay healthy, he can really help us too,” Sanders said.  “I am also really excited about C.J. Randall. He can compete for a starting position, has maturity and great leadership potential.”

The Bears head back to the practice field Thursday for a 3:30 p.m. workout, followed by a pair of practices Friday. MSU will also engage in its second controlled scrimmage of the fall camp at Plaster Field, Saturday at 10:15 a.m.

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